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Nine days after Tim Tebow was released by the New York Jets, it has become increasingly clear that the ultra-popular quarterback who has hijacked many a news cycle has no viable landing spot.
No NFL team seems to want him — as a starter, backup, converted H-back or fake-punt decoy — and it’s not like he’s fending off big-money offers from Canada, either, Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports reports.
Tebowmania is at least partly to blame. As much as prospective employers are wary of Tebow’s flawed mechanics, much-maligned throwing motion or deficiencies when it comes to reading defenses, the incessant media and fan attention that accompanies his presence on the depth chart is an even bigger concern.
“He seems like a great guy to have on a team, and I’d be tempted to bring him in as our backup,” one NFC head coach said Wednesday. “But it’s just not worth dealing with all the stuff that comes with it.”
Tebow, as one NFC offensive coordinator told Silver last spring, carries more of a stigma than Terrell Owens.
Or, in the words of one AFC head coach: “You don’t want to put up with the circus.”
“I don’t understand what the Jets did,” the AFC coach says. “You have to have a plan for him, but they had no idea what they were doing. I do think they were shocked how bad he looked in practice and in the preseason … how bad his accuracy was. But why make the trade for the guy if you’re not clear on how to use his abilities?”
The Jacksonville Jaguars, who’d expressed interest in trading for the local hero before the Jets made the deal with Denver last year, said “no thanks.” Instead, newly hired general manager Dave Caldwell decided to stick with the embattled Blaine Gabbert.
And while there’s plenty of media chatter that Tebow could land with the Patriots (whose offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, was the man behind the Broncos’ decision to draft Tebow in the first round), my organizational sources tell me that’s very unlikely to happen, with one going so far as to say that Coach Bill Belichick “hates” Tebow as a player. As for the prospect of employing Tebow as a change-of-pace quarterback — and asking Tom Brady to come off the field in those situations — the source says, “No chance. Plus they wouldn’t like the circus that comes with it.”
With rookie minicamps starting for so many teams through this weekend, there will be hundreds of young men new to the NFL who are convinced that the league sold them short. And every season, a few rise up from the rabble to become the new “How did THAT guy last THAT long in the draft?” stories. Perhaps the most glaring example that the 2012 draft was not an exact science came from former Florida Atlantic running back Alfred Morris, selected in the sixth round by the Washington Redskins. Morris ran for 3,506 yards and 27 touchdowns in three seasons for the Owls, but the team went 1-11 in his last year there, and 1-11 in the Sun Belt doesn’t get you a lot of looks at the next level.
But Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, who had a bit of success with another sixth-round running back in Terrell Davis, took a shot, and off Morris went. After decent preseason performances against Buffalo and Chicago, he ran for 107 yards against the Colts, which had Shanahan thinking he’d seen enough. He told Morris that he’d be the starting halfback the day before the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, and that proved to be a wise decision. Morris ended his rookie campaign with a franchise-record 1,613 rushing yards on 335 carries, including a 200-yard, three-touchdown performance in the regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys that clinched Washington’s first NFC East title since 1999. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was the marquee rookie, but Morris gave just as much with far less fanfare.
So, when I spoke with Morris during his recent media blitz for a DirectTV sponsorship, I asked him what he’d tell this year’s class of rookies who believe that they’ve been undersold for whatever reason.
“Don’t go in with a chip on your shoulder — at least, I couldn’t have done it that way,” he said. “Don’t go in looking to prove anything. You just be who you’ve been since Day 1, and you’ll catch their eye. Hard work pays off. You stay focused, you stay positive, and don’t get down just because things didn’t go the way you expected them to go. It’s gonna be a grind, and when you get that opportunity, you make the most of it.”
It was a gradual process for Morris — he started the preseason in competition with the usual battery of running backs, and ended it as the de facto man in charge.
“As things progressed, I became a better ballplayer,” he remembered. “My coaches were staying on me — teaching me instead of just yelling at me. ‘This is how you do it better,’ and I became better. So, stay focused, and the hard work will pay off. I can definitely attest to that, because I busted my butt, and I came from nowhere, but I got an opportunity, and I made the most of it.”
Like most rookies who prove their worth beyond their draft position, Morris was never told by anyone in the league why he had to wait so long. There were 11 backs taken before him in the 2012 draft, and none of those players — including third overall pick Trent Richardson — came close to his productivity. Morris had a few dings on his scouting reports that really didn’t make sense in retrospect. Some said that he didn’t have the burst to hit the edge with authority, when he did that quite a bit in the NFL. Others questioned his ability to run quickly through one-cut gaps, which he did about as well as any back who’s ever played in Shanahan’s well-established zone-blocking system. And, of course, there’s always the default small-school question.
“I didn’t have anyone [explain it]; I was just grateful for the opportunity,” Morris said. “I was just thankful to Coach Shanahan, and the Redskins organization. I guess from some people’s perspective, they took a chance on me, and it turned out really great. I knew that the scouting reports weren’t accurate as far as who I was, and that happens when you go to smaller schools. I felt that I could have gone to any school — Alabama, West Virginia, or the other big programs — and done just as good. But none of [the big-school backs] could have come into my position at FAU and done what I did. That’s not me being arrogant or anything like that; I’m just confident in myself, and I’ll stand by that any day.”
As confident as he was, it was still a thrill — and a bit of a shock — to hear that he’d be the Week 1 starter.
“He said, ‘You stay in as long as you want, and if you feel like you need a breather, you come out of the game,’” Morris said of Shanahan’s talk with him. “But he just gave me the reins, in a sense. Testing the waters, and I went out there and had a pretty decent game. You’re supposed to have jitters as a rookie, but I was having fun. It turned out really good, and the more the year rolled on, and the more they trusted me, they just told me to stay in there and keep going at it.
“I felt great — it was like, goosebumps. I was finally seeing the fruits of my labor. FAU was rough. We were at the bottom of the barrel. Everything I got through high school and college was earned. So, I was excited and happy. I didn’t worry, didn’t care — I just had fun.”
While Morris gained 98 yards and scored two touchdowns against the Saints to start the season, it was really the Week 4 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he caught fire. That game also saw Griffin’s highest passing yardage total of the season (323 yards), and illustrated perfectly the hand-in-hand relationship between what Griffin’s mobility did to defenses, and how Morris’ unexpected speed/power combination filled in the gaps. Morris knew that his new quarterback was going to be something else based on his college tape, but Griffin didn’t really come alive for his teammates until the first practices.
“I didn’t watch him closely like a fan would, but we were always talking about him,” Morris said about his recollections of Griffin back in college. “And it’s one thing to see a guy on TV, and then you see him in person … it was totally different, like, ‘This guy really is that good!’ Even in OTAs, when I was just observing everything, I kept saying, ‘Damn, that was impressive,’”
Still, as impressive as the rookies were, the Redskins started out with a 3-6 record before their bye week in early November. Whatever happened in that extra week off, Shanahan should look to patent it — his team rolled off a seven-game winning streak to end the regular season. For Morris, that two-month span was the best example of teamwork he’s ever seen.
“That was the most memorable part of the season, because a group of individuals couldn’t have done that — not in the National Football League. It took a group of selfless, talented athletes to put team first, and I feel like that’s when it started to gel. Everyone was about team, team, team. The individual accolades went on the back burner, and that was our mindset.”
Of course, Griffin’s Dec. 9 knee injury against the Baltimore Ravens, and the subsequent injury in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, have Redskins fans worried whether RG3 will be ready for the start of the 2013 regular season. According to Morris, the Redskins faithful can cool their jets.
“He’s ahead of schedule,” Morris said. “I did some interviews after the season, and people thought I was crazy, but I said, ‘That guy’s gonna be back.’ He’s running, he’s throwing — not with the team, but he’s working with the trainers, and he’s looking great. I have no doubt he’ll be back for Game 1. It’s going to be his call, in a sense. I know he doesn’t want to jeopardize his health coming back for that first game, but if he’s confident … he’s going to be smart about it because he wants to play 10-plus years in this game.”
For Morris, the challenge is to improve on a rookie season nobody saw coming. And the process of “becoming a better me,” as he put it, starts with the little things.
“I’m going to run hard and give you 100 percent on every play because every play could be my last, but I left a lot of yards on the field last year. Looking back on film, a lot of it was my aiming points in certain runs, or I was too tight and I couldn’t get outside. Being more patient with my cutbacks — I tended to cut back too soon. I was blessed, and I definitely don’t take it for granted. Last year’s behind me — I’m beyond that.”
Of course, no interview with Morris would be complete without a check on the status of his famous car — the 1991 Mazda that has received almost has much press as he has. Back in his rookie season, Morris insisted that “if it breaks down, I’m gettin’ it fixed. That’s just how I am.” Now, that appears to be exactly the case.
“It’s in the shop right now — just a little maintenance on the radiator when the season ended, and I’m getting the axle fixed,” he said. “It was making the front of the car wobble. And I’m getting the AC redone. I should have it back by next week, so I’m not worried. I’m driving a rental car right now.”
Morris also insisted that even down the road, when he signs that lucrative second contract (he’s set to make $ 480,000 in Year 2 of a four-year, $ 2.223 million deal), he’ll still be behind the wheel of that vintage ride, as long as she co-operates.
“I know that eventually, I’ll have to park it, but I want to keep it as long as possible. I know people call me cheap, but I’m being smart. There’s no reason to go out there and waste money — instead of spending that on me, I can help bless somebody else. There are so many needs out there, so to waste money on a car when I have one that runs perfectly … I have a heart for others, so as long as my needs are met, I’m fine.”
Sounds like a man who understands true value. If only the teams who passed him by in the draft understood that same concept…
Veteran punter Chris Kluwe announced on Twitter that his eight-year run with the Minnesota Vikings has come to an end.
“So long, Minnesota, and thanks for all the fish!,” Kluwe wrote. “Thank you to all the fans, my teammates, and the Wilf family for the past 8.5 years. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.”
Kluwe had seen the writing on the wall and was expected to be released after the addition of Locke. Last week, Kluwe told ProFootballTalk.com that it was “a shame” that his vocal support for a human rights issue like marriage equality could result in his release considering the number of second chances given to players in the league who have committed felonies.
In recent seasons, Kluwe has used his Twitter page to needle the NFL about player safety issues and the labor negotiations in 2011. Last year, Kluwe publicly supported the Hall of Fame candidacy of punter Ray Guy.
Vikings GM Rick Spielman told Peter King of Sports Illustrated that the off-field issues were not going to be a factor in what the did at the punter position.
“Locke was the top punter in this draft,” Spielman said. “Some people are trying to play the other angle [the Kluwe-as-distraction angle], but that is totally off-base. That is off the radar. I want Chris, and all of our players, to have freedom of speech. This has nothing to do with Chris’ political views.”
Though Kluwe posted the highest net punting average (39.7 yards) of his career, his release on Monday should not come as a surprise. Kluwe was toward the bottom of the league in terms of placing punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and he was one of only three regular punters in the NFL last regular season to not have at least one punt of 60 yards.
Minnesota used a fifth-round pick (No. 155 overall) in the 2013 NFL draft on UCLA punter Jeff Locke, who will be a far cheaper option at the position. Locke’s four-year contract will include a signing bonus of $ 184,192, which along with a first-year base salary of $ 405,000, will cost the Vikings $ 589,192 in cash and $ 451,048 in salary cap dollars in 2013. Kluwe had been scheduled to earn $ 1.45 million in both cash and cap dollars 2013, the final season of a contract he signed with the Vikings midway through the 2007 season. By going with the rookie over Kluwe, the Vikings will save over $ 860,000 in cash and $ 998,952 in cap space.
Eric Fisher may have believed that he was worth the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, but he had to work exceptionally hard over the last few years to bring followers to that cause.
“I think I answered all the questions,” he said soon after the Kansas City Chiefs gave him that honor. “Coming out of a small school, obviously people are going to have questions. What kind of competition did he face? What kind of athlete is he? I think I proved myself at the Senior Bowl, the combine, pro day. … I think I answered all the questions.”
The road ahead is filled with potential, but the road taken was far from a sure thing.
On one of his college visits as a high school recruit, the 18-year-old Fisher drove six hours from his home in Rochester Hills, Michigan to talk with an NCAA coach of some renown. When Fisher arrived, the coach wished him luck, but said that he had to skip the visit because he had a golf outing.
“Yeah, it was a little frustrating,” Fisher told Y! Sports this week, during a media tour for Tide detergent. “Obviously, he’s probably kicking himself.”
One can only assume that the coach, who Fisher would not name, spent a lot of time in the last year doing just that. Fisher was a lightly-regarded prospect — a 230-pound tackle out of Stoney Creek High — but even he was surprised by the lack of interest he received from the big schools. Shut out of the Big 10, Fisher weighed offers from Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, and chose the latter. Just a few years later, Fisher heard his name called as the first overall pick in the NFL draft. And in the end, Fisher felt most at home where he wound up.
“It just all felt right,” he said of his time at Central Michigan. “I really liked the coaching staff at the time. Just the atmosphere of that school. The game-day atmosphere … our stadium only holds 30,000 people, but at the same time, it feels like one of those big-day atmospheres, so it was nice. “
The one person who was always at his side through the process was his mother, Heidi Langegger, who raised him as a single parent. Fisher’s father was in the picture, but he lived a few hours away, and it was up to Ms. Langegger to be her son’s primary voice of support and validation when few others believed in his football future.
“I think part it comes with a work ethic, and bringing Eric up with a strong work ethic,” she said of her son’s current success. “Nothing in life is free. I had looked into the different one-a-day camps, sent him out there, and wanted him to know that if he wants something bad enough, then you work for it, anything is possible. And for Eric, his work ethic, even when he was in high school, every morning, 5:00 a.m., whether they had to be there or not, he was working out on the football field or in the weight room and he was very dedicated. It’s something he wanted, and he went after it, and he’s obtaining his dream.”
She taught him that work ethic while working as a data analyst for Volkswagen, looking at failure rates on the different technical components on cars. Even as her son’s “failure rate” started to dissipate when he became a star in college, and excelled at the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine, she let him know that he should retain the character that got him there.
“I think there’s a difference of my life changing – I don’t want to change, and I don’t want Eric to change,” she said. “I want him to stay true to who he is. He’s a hard-working young man. This is a huge blessing for him, for me, and it makes me really proud to say Eric’s, you know, he’s turned out to be a great man. As for changing our life, there’s no denying that, you know, in the NFL, he’s going to have a much bigger paycheck than I’ve ever seen in my entire lifetime, but it shouldn’t change us. I think that’s important to stay grounded.”
One thing that will change, and Ms. Langegger has already agreed to it, is that she will never have to work another day in her life. It was the least the son could do for his mother, and that was decided a while ago.
“Eric sat me down and said ‘Mom, you knew this is going to happen’,” she remembered. “I said ‘Yeah, I realize that, Eric,’ and he said, ‘I want you to retire’. And I said ‘Okay’. I am going to enjoy it. I live in the country on some acreage and I want to do some gardening and I guess, at this point in my life, I’m going to do what I want to do. This has really been great for us. Eric had mentioned that Tide brought us in yesterday, and we’ve been traveling around all of New York City, different radio stations, and TV stations. Wanted to say ‘Thank you’ to Tide. I’ve always used Tide, as far back as I can remember, and it’s done great for Eric, with all the dirty clothes he brings home from football, especially the ones that he forgot to take out of his duffel bags. It’s wonderful, and I have to say I’m very proud of Eric.
Fisher said that he had no clue whether the Chiefs would take him, and that he just had to keep his head on straight. It was easy to see where he got that mentality. As to what the Chiefs will get? Fisher let loose with the list of attributes.
“I’ll bring my work ethic. I just want to play football. I take pride in what I do. I take pride in not letting the quarterback get touched and put rushing yards up. Rushing is a very important part of football. You can’t really pass the ball if you can’t run the ball. They’re getting a very hard worker and a player who takes pride in what he does.”
No question about it, but playing left tackle in the NFL isn’t as tough as raising a son as a single mom. Even when Eric Fisher starts stoning professional defensive ends on Sundays, he’ll have to work a while to be the toughest person in his family.
“I think he turned out pretty good,” Heidi Langegger said of her son, and the journey in raising him. “One time he even said I did a good job. It’s doable. It can be done. It’s the same as Eric going to a small school.
“If you put your mind to it, if you’re dedicated, hard-working, and have a good work ethic, anything is possible.”
Obviously, Eric Fisher listened to his mom. And look where he is now.
On April 3rd 1973, Martin Cooper made the first mobile call on the nine-inch (and 28-ounce) Motorola DynaTAC. Dialing up a rival at AT&T, he apparently said that he was ringing “to see if my call sounds good at your end.” While briefcase-size models had come before it, it’s Motorola’s truly mobile phone that became the go-to power accessory for the likes of Gordon Gekko, Zack Morris and, er, American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman. Since its heyday, however, the AMPS analog networks that the phone used to run on have now largely disappeared, replaced by digital ones that have added better call clarity, not to mention data connectivity at ever-improving speeds. We’ve come a long way.
Via: Sky News
LOS ANGELES — While USC quarterback Matt Barkley ran a 40-yard dash and participated in agility drills during the school’s Wednesday pro day at Cromwell field, that was about as insignificant as it could be for the NFL teams in attendance. All 32 teams were expected to make an appearance from their coaching and/or scouting staffs, and most certainly did — there were especially heavy groups from the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets organizations, though a lot of the shot-callers in the league were at LSU’s pro day. What those in attendance wanted to see was how well Barkley would throw the ball after a November, 2012 shoulder injury that ended his season, and prevented him from participating in pre-draft processes like the Senior Bowl and scouting combine — at least, as a pure thrower.
“It was a great day to come out and just throw the ball around,” Barkley said when his performance was done. “It feels good to be back and SC’s campus like this — that was a good day. You always strive to be perfect, especially on a day like this, but I’m pleased with how the guys ran routes, and how the ball came out.”
With performance coach Chris Weinke in tow, Barkley took to the field with his cadre of homegrown receivers at around 1:00 p.m. and proceeded to fling the ball around. He started with quick 10-yard in-seam and out throws to a four-across array of receivers, showing that he could at least get the ball out of his hand with the same velocity he had before. And in that sense, Wednesday was a big win for Barkley — wherever teams had him graded as far as overall arm strength is about where he is now.
The bad news, we suppose, would be for anyone expecting his work with Weinke or Dr. James Andrews to provide a new level of sauce on his longer passes. On deeper sideline throws, especially those he threw outside the pocket on designed rollouts, Barkley tended to struggle with the kind of quick and precise timing needed to make those plays happen in game situations. While he can clearly sing the ball with optimal arc to any depth, his receivers (including Robert Woods, who drew a lot of applause from those in attendance) had to come back and otherwise adjust on about half of his long passes. The actual stats — many would estimate five or six incompletions in a total of 62 throws — were not as important as the kinds of passes Barkley threw incomplete, and the completions his receivers had to make for him.
That said, and where Barkley’s been undersold to date, is in his control and command of the little things. In my opinion, he has by far the best footwork, ball flight (ability to put the right amount of air under the ball), anticipation, and sense of play action of any quarterback in this draft class. When I talked to Weinke about Barkley’s positive traits, footwork and anticipation came up more than once. It’s clear to me that Barkley has developed his sense of anticipation as an adaptive strategy to compensate for the deep arm deficiency.
Weinke told me that Barkley came to him after rehabbing his shoulder with Dr. Andrews on January 20, and the two have been working on getting Barkley back to full strength ever since. Barkley was at about 50 percent, Weinke estimated, when he showed up, about 80 percent two weeks ago, and ready to let it fly on Wednesday.
“The ultimate goal was getting to today and being able to make all the throws,” Weinke told me. “He feels comfortable with where his shoulder is, and with making every throw, and looking back, he’s glad he did follow the plan.”
Weinke also had a ready answer for those concerned with Barkley’s velocity.
“Here’s the deal — everybody gets enamored with arm strength,” he said. “The key for me when coaching quarterbacks, whether it’s a veteran or a younger guy, is to understand that the most important thing is obviously accuracy. Along with that is being able to have the ability to process information and deliver the ball with anticipation. Very rarely in the National Football League do we drop back and throw the ball 70 yards. The great quarterbacks don’t have to have a cannon for an arm — they’ve got to be able to make all the throws physically, and to get the ball out on time.”
Weinke is convinced that Barkley is such a quarterback, and Barkley, though fairly taciturn after his throwing session, is clearly convinced as well.
“I don’t know — that’s not my job,” he said, when asked if he had something to prove today. “I do what I do, and if it’s proof enough for someone else, so be it. But I don’t think that was my goal today.”
Barkley’s goal today was to show the NFL what he could do up close and in person, and to that end, his pro day was an unqualified success. When NFL teams go back to the tape, they’ll see what they saw in Los Angeles — both good and bad.There are worse things to be than Matt Barkley at his best — we just have to remember that with some players, “best” isn’t always what we want it to be.
After a great deal of drama, it turns out that Matt Barkley is, in the immortal words of Dennis Green. who we thought he was.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison announced on Twitter that he will be released by the team.
“It’s been a great run but all good things must come to a end. Thank you Steelers Nation I will miss you all!”, Harrison tweeted on Saturday morning.
The Steelers have confirmed the transaction.
“James has played a major role in the success of this organization during his time in Pittsburgh,” head coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement released by the team. “I appreciate everything he has done in my six years as head coach and wish him nothing but the best in the future.”
Harrison’s release does not come as a surprise as the 34-year-old is due $ 6.57 million in base salary with a $ 10.035 million cap number in 2013. The Steelers entered the week at about $ 3 million under their adjusted cap number of $ 124.4 million and releasing Harrison frees up $ 5.105 million in cap space this season.
The release of Harrison is not strictly about finances. Harrison’s string of five consecutive appearances in the Pro Bowl came to end as the outside linebacker had six sacks in 2012, his lowest total since becoming a full-time starter in 2007.
In his 131-game career with the Steelers, Harrison had 64 sacks, 29 forced fumbles and five interceptions and was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. In eight playoff games, Harrison had 6.5 sacks and an interception, which he returned 100 yards for a touchdown to close out the first half of the Steelers’ 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
The Steelers have a history of letting veteran players go when they reach the twilight of their careers. With the Steelers moving on from Harrison, the team will look to 2010 second-round pick Jason Worilds to step up next season. Worilds has started 10 of his 42 games in the NFL and has posted 10 sacks, including a career-high five sacks in 2012, and is entering the final year of his rookie contract.